Starting on Tuesday, Mississippi will no longer accept rental assistance program applications. On August 3, Governor Tate Reeves announced that the two-year program would be coming to an end. Reeves explained that the assistance disincentivized Mississippians to return to work.
Any claims submitted by Monday will be reviewed for aid. After that, the remaining federal funds will be returned to the U.S. Treasury. Mississippi has approximately $130 million left over from the program, but it still has thousands of applications to process.
Reeves stated, "The experimental socialist programs being pushed from Washington are not caring; they are cruel. They trap Mississippians in a cycle of dependency, like a loan shark or a bookie offering free cash and never mentioning the downside."
During the briefing, Reeves reported that the state had received over 86,000 applications throughout the life of the program. He noted that over 36,000 of those applications had been approved and over $200 million in aid had been distributed.
The Rental Assistance for Mississippians Program was initially passed in 2020 to provide up to 15 months of rental assistance for residents. The first Emergency Rental Assistance program required tenants to prove that they were at an economic disadvantage as a direct result of COVID. The Biden administration removed that requirement in ERA2.
"This is the same old song when it comes to a lot of federal programs. Create a program for a specific purpose, then expand it beyond its original intent. And then strong-arm federal agencies and states to dole out as many taxpayer dollars as possible regardless of the impact on inflation and otherwise," Reeves stated.
The Mississippi governor expressed concern about fraud and the lack of incentive for residents to work. "This program has essentially become: If for whatever reason you can't pay your rent or utility bill, taxpayers will pay them for you," Reeves said.
Some residents and opposition are concerned about the governor's decision to end rental assistance, citing low wages and higher housing prices. When asked if the state would be open to raising the minimum wage, Reeves stated that he was open to it.
Reporters asked Reeves if he was concerned about increased evictions and homelessness as a result of the decision. The governor explained that unemployment numbers had significantly dropped as people returned to work. He expressed optimism about the local economy and discussed how he plans on helping Mississippians earn better incomes.
Reeves said, "We are trying to improve the overall level of skills of every Mississippian that's interested in doing so because having those skills lead to significantly higher wages for those individuals."